After elections, now comes the hard part for Tunisia

Article Summary
With the presidential elections behind them, there may be a shake-up in Ennahda and pressure on Nidaa Tunis to live up to expectations.

The Tunisian electoral marathon has finally ended after three constituent events took place in the last three months: legislative elections and two presidential election rounds, giving birth to the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) and a new president for Tunisia. But we must recognize that the election to the top post has by far monopolized national and international public opinion.

So, it is good to report the positive turn of events after the official proclamation by the High Independent Authority for Elections of the results of the second round of the presidential elections. And with that announcement yesterday [Dec. 21], Moncef Marzouki congratulated his opponent Beji Caid Essebsi, thus recognizing Essebsi’s victory. This new situation is comforting and is likely to reduce tension in some parts of southern Tunisia, specifically in al-Hamma in Gabes governorate.

Before that and throughout the campaign for the second round, the question arose whether the bases of the Islamist party Ennahda would vote for incumbent President Marzouki or abstain from voting. We did not know whether these bases would follow the directives of Rachid Ghannouchi or stick to the message of Habib Ellouze, one of the hawks of the Islamist movement. On his official Facebook page, he clearly stated that the Shura Council has never advocated neutrality and that it has given its members freedom to vote for whomever they choose. 

“Since we know the convictions of our bases, we are confident that they will vote for Marzouki,” Ellouze said. The message was seen as a clear directive in favor of voting for the incumbent.

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According to an initial analysis of the second round of the presidential elections, Marzouki won 44.32% — nearly 1.37 million votes — thus getting more votes than in the first round.

In other words, Marzouki received a massive vote — as much as in the first round, if not more — from Ennahda, Congress for the Republic and Tayyar supporters, as well as possibly from Tayyar al-Mahabba of Hechmi Hamdi and a few thousand votes from the supporters of Ahmed Najib Chebbi and others who were disappointed by the small electorate of Mustapha Ben Jaafar.

Regarding Nidaa Tunis’ candidate, Essebsi, his 1.73 million votes suggest that he received the votes of the Free Patriotic Union, el-Moubadara and part of the Popular Front.

This configuration of Marzouki’s electors should be taken into consideration in the next political stage because Nidaa has, in theory, three levers of power: the presidency of the republic, the presidency of the ARP and the head of the government.

And the question that arises is: Can Ennahda be part of the future government as it wants? There is no clear answer, but such participation is difficult to imagine.

Essebsi had clearly said that all depends on the outcome of the presidential elections and, of course, the nature of the vote. Nidaa Tunis has always accused Ennahda of doublespeak.

It is also logical that the party that won the parliamentary and presidential elections not trust a party whose leaders have no control over their base, as appeared to be the case with Ennahda. Its base acted as it pleased and obeyed ambitious people rather than its seasoned and charismatic leaders.

This presidential election gave birth to a new face for the Islamist party, which used to be seen as disciplined and obedient to its leaders. Moreover, observers expect a real stir inside the Islamist party. The party may adopt a new direction, or there may be a split between moderates and the hard-liners.

Looking forward, we are eagerly awaiting to see how the formation of the Cabinet will be approached. Some even say the head of government may come from outside Nidaa or other political parties. Some ministers in the Mehdi Jomaa Cabinet may stay in their posts. Most important, what is the future of Mohsen Marzouk, the rising star of Nidaa Tunis, and the political landscape in general?

These questions and many others are being asked by analysts to better understand the future of the next government. The coming phase looks delicate, since, for the winners, the hard part starts now. These winners are looked upon favorably now, but they are called upon to live up to the expectations.

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Found in: tunisia, nidaa tunis, moncef al-marzouki, ennahda, elections
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